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Baby gorilla born at Audubon Zoo has died

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Posted at 11:14 AM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 12:38:48-04

The Audubon Zoo announced Thursday that the six-day-old critically endangered western lowland gorilla born on September 4 has died.

The infant was the first gorilla birth at Audubon Zoo in 24 years and the first offspring for 13-year-old Tumani.

The zoo says that animal care staff noticed on Wednesday evening that the gorilla infant seemed lethargic and weak in the arms of the mother.

The infant was transferred to the Zoo's animal hospital, but they say the veterinarian team could not revive the infant.

The infant's mother, Tumani, is currently being monitored by Audubon’s veterinary team and the entire troop was given the opportunity to grieve the loss of the infant.

Audubon says that extra precautions were taken leading up to the birth including working with Tumani on maternal training to prepare her for possible staff assistance in feeding or caring for the infant.

“There are many risks involved with gorilla births and unfortunately, it is not unusual for a first-time gorilla mom to lose an offspring,” said Dr. MacLean, Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian in a press release. “Our veterinary team worked with outside medical experts on site including Species Survival Plan Gorilla Birth Management Team, OB-Gyns, and neonatologist to help us prepare and manage this birth.”

Staff says that the mother and baby initially appeared to be doing very well and that animal care staff found that the infant was feeding and progressing well.

A cause of death, according to the zoo, is underdetermined. They say that it appears there was a lack of adequate lactation from the mother to support the infant.

A necropsy is planned to determine cause of death. Results will be available in a few weeks, they say.

“We are heartbroken over the loss,” said Ron Forman, Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO. “This has been a work in progress for many years, from the introduction of the new troop members to the announcement of the birth, everyone involved has worked tirelessly. I am incredibly proud of our team. We will continue to contribute to the conservation of this amazing species.”

The World of Primates section of Audubon Zoo will remain closed until further notice.

The zoo is encouraging the community to share their condolences with the Audubon team on social media or to drop off sympathy cards at the front entrance of Audubon Zoo.

Audubon Zoo’s gorillas are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. The Gorilla Species Survival Plan manages 354 gorillas in 48 North American zoos to ensure a genetically diverse population and the long-term sustainability of the species.

Many gorilla populations have reportedly declined or disappeared over the past few decades due to illegal hunting, disease, habitat loss, and an increase in poaching.

“It has been reported that in the wild 42% of western gorilla mortality rates happen in the first year of life,” said Audubon’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office Dr. Kyle Burks, PhD, Animal Behavior. “It’s very difficult to lose an animal in our care, but we understand the significance of this birth and the pivotal role Audubon and fellow AZA-accredited zoos play in saving this critically endangered species from extinction.”

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